Jazz Spectrum 91

Saturdays at 9:00 p.m.

Hosted by Fritz Byers, Jazz Spectrum 91 is designed as an anthology, a loose and flowing tour through the history of the music, showcasing the wondrous diversity of jazz and the virtuosity of the musicians who play it. The notion of jazz history, in any formal sense, is problematic, since the best recordings are timeless, tied not so much to time and place as to personal and collective inspiration, which, like all thunderclaps of genius, defy tidy explanation. Jazz is marked, at once, both by limitless innovation and enormous discipline, and it is this tension -- between the individual and the group, between form and invention -- that makes jazz such a source of boundless fascination. And joy.

  • Views: 676 This Week on Jazz Spectrum 91

    September 24th- This week on Jazz Spectrum we explore the illustrious career of drummer Billy Higgins. He's worked with everyone from Ornette Coleman, to John Scofield, to Monk. We'll be revisiting some of those dates. We also dedicate a set to Fats Navarro in honor of his birthday, September 24th, 1923.

  • Jazz Spectrum Playlist- September 24th, 2016

    SET 1

    Lee Morgan, Sidewinder, “Totem Pole”

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  • Jazz Spectrum Playlist- September 17th, 2016

    SET 1

    Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution, “Straight No Chaser”

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  • The Detroit Jazz Festival: Jack's Favorite Sets

    This year’s Detroit Jazz Festival was held in Detroit’s Hart Plaza from the 2nd to the 5th of September. The annual festival hosts world-class jazz artists, including some of the biggest and most celebrated names in the genre. This year was no exception. During the long weekend, contributors Alec Hillyer and Jack Leizerman were tasked to attend as many of the festival’s sets as they could manage. Below, Jack Leizerman describes some of his highlights from the weekend.

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  • Jazz Spectrum Playlist- September 10th, 2016

    SET 1

    Ron Carter, Ron Carter’s Great Big Band, “The Eternal Triangle”

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  • Carla Bley- Walking Lottery Woman

    By Fritz Byers

    In the spring of 1980, I saw Carla Bley and her quixotic little big band in concert at Berkeley Performance Center.  I knew Carla’s work then only superficially and primarily in her role as the pianist in the Liberation Music Orchestra.  (With university lecture halls and dormitory common rooms at the time full of shrill and thrilling clamorings about real, imagined, and failed liberations spanning the Americas, the captive radio stations aired

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Carla Bley.

    By Alec Hillyer

    “I think rock and roll is jazz, and jazz is classical music, and classical music has become rock and roll. They’ve all gone round one turn on the clock,” pianist and composer Carla Bley quipped in a 1972 interview with John Fordman. Her claim wasn’t that these genres were adopting traits of the others, but that the audiences that they served were beginning to shift, and by the early 70s the shifting was seismic. Experimental composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass were becoming the new mavericks of minimalism. Rock and roll was siphoning off many of the hip youth that only jazz could have staked a claim to before. Rock was becoming a culture capable of absorbing a myriad of influences and transmuting that material to wider audiences. Jazz had already proved its grace in such musical synthesis. Yet, composer Carla Bley came along in the late 60s to show us new ways to compose and incorporate many of the  sounds percolating through the culture. Her first act was to bring into jazz, long vaunted as a pure-performance art, the visceral power of rock and its fascination with studio-production technique, including some of the emerging baubles of recording technology. How much of this importing ended up compromising Bley’s early jazz output is up for argument.  But Bley’s knack for the unconventional would become evident quickly, and her first two major releases would act as proper introductions to the pianist and composer.

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  • Art Blakey's Jazz Message

       By Alec Hillyer

         Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers has had many iterations during its 35-year run. This wasn’t out of desperation, but out of design. Many musicians who played with the Jazz Messengers could have dedicated much more time to the group, but Art Blakey wouldn’t have it. He envisioned the group as a revolving door of young talent, with Blakey’s role as the permanent bandleader, drummer, and mentor. He would hire relatively unknown musicians, groom them to play with the mastery required to tour like Art, and then abruptly let them go. When pressed on the issue Blakey famously commented, “I’m gonna stay with the youngsters. When these get too old, I’m gonna get some younger ones. Keeps the mind active”. However, the band never sounded like a project for an idling old drummer, more a workshop for aspiring players and songwriters, as taught by a bebopping zealot. Blakey was steadfast in his mission to bring jazz to all audiences, and that unyielding  passion can be heard in Blakey’s technique. Blakey styled his drumming with an aggressive swing. He was graceful, but played with a muscular intensity, even when comping with subtle polyrhythms and fills. The sound of the Messengers was ultimately the sound of young cats forced to prove themselves on Blakey’s stage. Blakey would lead the outfit until it disbanded after his death in 1990.

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  • Curator's Notes for Feb. 20th

         In honor of last weekend's Toledo Opera presentation of the Gershwin/Heyward folk opera "Porgy and Bess," we offer a prismatic look at six of its most central songs. The performers are truly a jazz spectrum, ranging from Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday, and Sidney Bechet through Joe Henderson, Hank Jones, and the Modern Jazz Quartet on to Sun Ra, Paolo Fresu, and Ran Blake before ending with the monumental Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration.

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  • COUNTERPOINT: Conversations About Jazz PART 2

    In Counterpoint, our host, Fritz Byers, begins a dialogue via email with some of our contributing writers and thinkers. Here, Fritz engages long-time friend, and contributor, Kim Kleinman, to discuss 2015 in review. This is the second part to this conversation between Fritz and Kim.

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  • COUNTERPOINT: Conversations About Jazz

         In Counterpoint, our host, Fritz Byers, begins a dialogue with some of our contributing writers and thinkers. Here, Fritz engages long-time friend and contributor, Kim Kleinman, via email to discuss 2015 in review. 

    Dear Kim,

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  • 2015: The Year I Gained Perspective in Jazz

    By Alec Hillyer

         It’s not like I was going in entirely blind. I was vaguely familiar with jazz music because of my obsession with sample-based hip-hop as a teen. I would yearn for that vinyl crackle that preluded the rapper, as the drum break was introduced. A wildly improvisational bass solo would be lassoed in to form a 4 or 8 bar melodic loop, with the drums and horns sourced from some other jazz or soul recording. These were artists creating music together although they may never have even met. The bricolage of sounds colliding in these appropriations created a quintessentially post-modern music, although I hadn’t been that acute at the time. These were my most formative years, and I gravitated towards sample-based music simply because I could hear the innovations in real-time. However, I noticed a strange allure to the often aged source material.

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  • The Best of 2015

    As selected by Fritz Byers

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  • The Frank Sinatra & Count Basie Collaboration

    By Kim Kleinman

    Francis Albert Sinatra’s birth 100 years ago this month is a chance to look at his music more closely.  I  have not given it the attention it deserves, so I take this opportunity to get to know his collaborations with Count Basie to overcome a rather serious lapse of taste and attention.

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  • On Ornette Coleman

    On Ornette Coleman By Fritz Byers (August 1998)

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  • Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2014

    Best of 2014

    The pleasures of jazz range from the thunderclap of wonder we feel when we encounter something utterly new to the gentle drizzling of appreciation that comes with a familiar tune done perfectly with just the right new embroidery. This has been true for all of the music’s vibrant, shifting life, and it remains so today. In this list of fifty appealing recordings from 2014, you’ll find a full range of these joys. (* denotes a special favorite)

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  • Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2013

    Best of 2013

    It took a bumper sticker to show me, graphically, what I’ve always suspected: Art is at the center of Earth. Embattled though our planet is, it offers, in a bewilderingly widening stream, the endless innovations of art. Demographics may be, as has been said, just another form of lie. But in this list of fifty notable recordings from 2013, you’ll find a striking diversity of age, style, creed, training, technique, sound, and vision – jazz. (* denotes a special favorite.)

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  • Views: 83 Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2012

    Best of 2012

    Sometimes I imagine jazz musicians as a flock of scavengers in reverse, flying over the whole vast history of the music to sort among its many diverse bodies and dispensing new life to work once thought dead.  A couple of decades ago, Gary Giddins used the phrase “neo-classical eclecticism” to describe the then-current mood of jazz.  That was apt then, and remains so: so much is going on in the music these days that its seems as linear as a Mobius Strip.  And we all remember how cool that was to discovery.  Here are 50 releases from the year – the odds are excellent that you’ll find some things to surprise and engage you. (* denotes a special favorite.)

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  • Views: 169 Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2011

    Best of 2011

    In listening back over a year’s worth of releases, I keep thinking of the tagline from James Toback’s movie, Black and White:  “What if you mixed everything up.”  That’s how this year sounds to me.  “Eclectic” doesn’t quite capture it.  Neither does “multi-genre,” or its close (and possibly clichéd) sibling, “genre-bending.”  Let’s just say that jazz this year is mixed with all sorts of influences, taking whatever works, wherever it’s found. And making it all new.  Just like always. Happy New Year.

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  • Views: 300 Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2010

    Best of 2010

    Jazz, despite murmurs of its demise, remains vibrant, diverse, intriguing, and irresistible.  Major jazz labels are shriveling if not dying, but new and wonderful music continues to issue in a widening stream.  Here are 50 releases from the year that struck me as especially memorable.  (* denotes special favorites.)

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  • Views: 403 Jazz Spectrum - Best of 2009

    BEST OF 2009

    Fritz Byers selects 50 new jazz recordings from 2009 that stood out for their innovation, virtuosity, and beauty.

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  • Views: 785 The Alchemy of Scott Lafaro, by Kim Kleinman

    The bassist Scott Lafaro's voice -- fresh, vibrant, and melodic -- transformed the instrument and its role in jazz.  Working with artists as diverse as Bill Evans and Ornette Coleman, created pure gold in a form of artistic alchemy. Kim Kleinman considers Lafaro's achievement.

  • Views: 802 Honoring Blue Mitchell, by Fritz Byers

    The trumpeter Blue Mitchell created a substantial body of tasteful, expressive, and affecting music, including a series of recordings in the 50s and 60s for Riverside and Blue Note that document a sensibility of consistent excellence and appealing reserve.  Fritz Byers honors Mitchell's memory.

  • Views: 631 Jim Hall - An Appreciation, by Fritz Byers

    For fifty years, Jim Hall has been making jazz.  His accumulated body of work is rich, fluid, and marked by sustained excellence.  It also reflects Hall's relentless inventiveness.  Fritz Byers considers Hall's career.